Ever since Smokin’ Ed Currie can remember, he had a hankering for hot peppers. As an adult, Currie shared that passion with his family, friends and neighbors by raising roughly 800 pepper plants in his own backyard. These pods of heat-filled zing were eventually transformed into irresistible hot sauces, salsas, mustards, jellies and snacks.
With an ever-growing demand for his flame-bursting products, Smokin’ Ed and his wife Linda decided it was finally time to start their own company. One evening, Linda and her friends were humorously discussing the final after-effect of consuming super-hot peppers… many laughs later, PuckerButt Pepper Company had their business name.
Currently, PuckerButt is the largest pepper producer on the east coast. They grow approximately 356 hand-picked varieties and ship their products internationally to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. Most widely known for the Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper®, the world’s hottest chili pepper per Guinness World Records in 2013, PuckerButt continues to breed potent crops of hybrid hulls packed with fiery heat.
Currie has unveiled another scorcher that’s temporarily being called “Pepper X”. It’s used in a hot sauce called “The Last Dab™” and is undergoing side-by-side testing with Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper® before they are submitted to Guinness for legitimacy.
So what’s it like to eat one of Currie’s sweltering hot peppers? We asked and he shared.
“I’ve always has a love for peppers and all things spicy, so I’ve built up a pretty high tolerance,” he said. “The hottest pepper I ever had was a 19 Gram Carolina Reaper; it was huge. When you consume super-hot peppers, everyone generally reacts the same way. Your first thought is this isn’t too bad, but you probably spoke too soon. The eyes will well up with tears, faces turn red, sweat breaks out. The heat will build from the back of your throat, and it takes about five minutes of relentless build up to hit its maximum heat level.
“By that time, you’re chugging milk, your ears ring, vision can go blurry, drooling, and just suffering in general. That will last about 20 to 30 minutes before the heat will go down or subside. Some go into a daze and almost everyone does puke. Most people regret it, but others enjoy the rush of endorphins and dopamine. Once the heat goes down your body will feel numb, your face will tingle, and a lot experience a extreme body rush.
“Next, you still have to digest it. You’ll experience stomach cramps four to six hours later, that are pretty brutal. The obvious last step doesn’t need explanation. I always suggest and encourage people to try it. It is a pretty cool experience.”
If you’re up for the challenge, just make sure to have a glass of milk handy, as water only swishes the heat around your mouth.
Since 2016, PuckerButt Pepper Company has operated as USDA Certified Organic. They pick, wash, sort and process all their peppers by hand and couple lady bugs with all-natural fertilizers instead of harsh chemicals and pesticides. Currie sells seeds for growing your own at home and even shares his fool-proof method to those who are interested.
“We always suggest using a sterile, soilless, lightweight mix,” he said.
The instructions are as follows:
- Sow seeds approximately 1/8” deep in sterile, soilless planting mix. Make sure to sow in containers allowing adequate drainage (i.e., holes on bottom of container).
- Cover seeds with a light dusting of soil (it is preferable not to load it with additional water: dampen soil mix from the start and continue to keep moist, but not so much where it is completely soaked much of the time. Never let the soil completely dry out.
- Plant seed no more than 1/8 inch–or about the size of the seed itself–below soil. Seeds may take 4–6 weeks to germinate. If planted too deep, germination time can increase or loss of seeds.
- Cover with a light dusting of soil or vermiculite. Lightly spray the covering with water. If needed, bring soil temperature up to 80-85 degrees to speed up germination. This can best be achieved indoors using a heat mat under the tray. PuckerButt does not suggest using paper towel or any other methods.
- Note: Seeds may take 4–6 weeks to germinate.
I met Smokin’ Ed during my two-day tour through the Olde English District of South Carolina (read all the details of this journey on my blog, Day #1 and Day #2). His storefront is open seven days a week and is located at 235 Main St. in Fort Mill (psst: Currie even hosts his own YouTube Channel). Products are sold in-store and online, so make sure to support your local farmer and check out his Carolina Reaper peanuts, sauces and spice blends.
Photos: Courtesy of PuckerButt Pepper Company